March 02, 2018 Dialogue

Star Ratings and Yelp

By Ken Matejka

As we ease into the new year and our Google+ endorsement network chugs along, it's a good time to revisit the continuing issue of reputation management in Yelp.

It was recently reported that ninety-two percent of consumers read online reviews before selecting a business and that seventy-four percent of consumers wouldn't select a business if it had a bad reputation. Furthermore, Harvard Business Review found that a one-star difference in ratings results in a 5-9 percent change in revenue.

If your Yelp profile is good, you won't need to overly concern yourself with hustling for reviews, but in any case, you should claim your listing, add photos, and post a description of your service.

In addition, set up an alert to notify you when you get a new review so that you can respond to your reviewers, regardless of whether their post is positive or negative.

So here's a quick test to decide whether you need to read further.

Go to yelp.com to look up your LRIS:

  1. Does your program have an overall star-rating of at least 4.5 stars?
  2. Does your program have at least 7-10 reviews?

If you answered "yes" to both of the questions above, you're probably good until someone posts a negative review.

Getting five-star reviews on Yelp is much harder than for Google+ because of Yelp's aggressive filtering system. Filtered reviews are not shown in your profile unless people know where to look for them, and don't go towards your overall star rating. It's real work to get clients to leave reviews and maddening when Yelp decides to filter them out. And it happens a lot.

With the goal of getting our LRIS programs as close to an overall five-star rating as possible, it's necessary to hustle for good reviews because they seldom come naturally, and challenge bad reviews when there's a basis for doing so.

Reporting Bad Reviews

It can make a big difference in your star rating if you can get Yelp to simply take the bad review down. If the review violates one of their guidelines, we first want to flag the review as inappropriate and explain why to Yelp. There are three main reasons why Yelp will pull down a review:

  1. The reviewer has an apparent conflict of interest (like a competitor or former employee).
  2. The review doesn't describe the reviewer's own direct experience.
  3. The review includes inappropriate material (like hate speech or threatening language).

My experience is that Yelp very seldom will take down a review but if the review falls within one of the categories above, it doesn't hurt to ask.

If Yelp won't remove the bad review, then we need to bury it with good reviews until we reach our 4.5+ star rating.

Getting Good Reviews That Stick

Naturally, we want to ask every satisfied client to say it on Yelp (or Google+), but because of Yelp's aforementioned filtering system, we need to be a little more deliberate in finding reviewers whose reviews will stick and go towards our overall rating. Reviews from people who are already registered Yelp users and have a history of reviewing local businesses have the best chance of avoiding the filter.

Here's how we find those Yelpers:

  1. You (and others in your LRS program) would set up personal Yelp accounts as if you're going to leave a review for a restaurant or something: https://www.yelp.com/signup
  2. Let Yelp scan your email account to "Find Friends" who are already registered Yelp users. These "friends" will be the people we first want to approach for a review or endorsement.
  3. Find people from among your list of email contacts who would be good to ask for a review or endorsement. Don't bother sending friend requests because we're just trying to collect a list of Yelp users at this point who can leave reviews that won't get filtered out. In my case, Yelp found 100+ "friends" in my email contact list who are registered with Yelp. Lots of opportunities here.
  4. Send an email to each of the candidates with a link to your Yelp profile periodically (not too many reviews too fast), who are likely to have positive things to say about your LRS. Ask them to leave a review (if a satisfied client) or an endorsement (if an attorney, friend, etc. who holds your LRS program in high regard).

If we get maybe one five-star review or endorsement per week, you'll have your 7-10 reviews and an overall star rating of 4.5+ in no time.

Ken Matejka

Attorney

Ken Matejka, J.D., LL.M, is a California attorney and a former member of the American Bar Association's Standing Committee on Lawyer Referral and Information Services. He is the author of The Lawyer's Ultimate Guide to Online Leads. His company, Matejka Marketing, Inc., currently provides online marketing services to forty bar associations nationwide.